Fine Art – Lighting



I have selected two late 18th century paintings. The first is a self portrait by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun (1790) and the second is a portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copley (1770). I chose these particular paintings because their naturalism provides images that are very similar to photography. The self portrait of Vigee-Lebrun is such a beautiful painting! She is glowing. The key light is coming in from the right and there is a very slow falloff because the rest of her face is softly lit by an evenly diffused light coming in from the left. The background light gives the painting depth while the back light illuminates her figure and highlights her white bonnet. The spot light creates attached shadows within her dress which gives it a soft, fluffy texture. The key light also casts her shadow onto the painting she is working on but, the diffused light from the left softens it. High key lighting was used in this painting because it is meant to stimulate and inspire the viewer. She is not smiling yet this painting is very cheerful. It provokes a sense of independence and self-reliance that is very refreshing and energetic. The Copley painting, on the other hand, is done in low key lighting which creates a much more contemplative, moody portrait. The main reason for attributing this painting to one with low key lighting is because there is no background light. The key light is coming in from the left and is harshly lighting the right side of his face, causing a fast falloff. The bold contrast between light and dark can be attributed to a very low intensity fill light coming in from the right. The Vigee-Lebrun painting makes me want to go out and accomplish something great while the Copley painting makes me want to sit and think about the great things I would like to accomplish.


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    yurenotakado said,

    I agree with the placement of lights. At first painting, the key light was coming from the right. It was slow falloff. It was high key light, and the background light was used to help creating cast shadow. In contast, at second painting, it was fast falloff. It was low key light. There was not the background light because the background was so dark. Atteched shadow of the second painting was so different from that of the first. It was dramatic.

  2. 2

    jour300 said,

    I agree with the analysis of the light. It’s great that this art provokes deeper thoughts in


  3. 3

    baileyelizabeth said,

    I really liked to paintings that you chose. They both have similar subjects and poising but have a very different composition and convey a very different feeling in the viewer. I especially liked the use of high key lighting in the second photograph. This shows very fast falloff around the mans faces and throughout the fabric of his shirt. This makes him look mysterious and wise at the same time. I also find the use of lighting makes the woman look especially beautiful in the first painting. The balance of key lighting coming from the right and a soft fill light coming from the left make her face and body look smooth and youthful. The effective use of lighting in this painting makes you admire the woman for her dainty manner and beautiful grace. Without the perfect balance of light in both paintings the different desired effects would not have been achieved.

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